A former factory building that closed in 1990 has re-opened in 2015 as a new, bright and comfortable 54-unit residence. Managed by Indwell, a local charity, Harvey Woods Lofts provides affordable housing and a measure of independence to low-income residents living with mental illnesses or other disabilities, who require housing with supports.
To get the project off the ground, the charity secured a seed funding grant from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). “This was critical in the early stages — getting the concept drawings and building plans set up, to secure approvals for project funding. Seed funding was the catalyst,” said Indwell’s Executive Director, Jeffrey Neven. Indwell also secured combined funding of $726,000 from the federal and provincial governments under the Canada – Ontario Investment in Affordable Housing.
For residents like Dennis, the new housing is helping him to create a better life. “I was homeless, sometimes crashing on people’s couches, sometimes on the street but I’m back on my feet now and Harvey Woods is the only chance I have to have my own apartment, one that I can afford,” he says.
Dennis has a lot to say about his new home: “I saw my apartment and fell right in love with it — right away, it felt like home.” He particularly likes that a lot of the antique touches of the factory are still present in the new building. Just as important to him are the many features that he’ll share with other residents: a computer room, a fitness room, and a community kitchen. With his cooking and computer skills, Dennis says that there are opportunities for him to give back. “I’ve been given a lot in the past year, and now it’s my turn,” he says.
Another resident, Maxine, had moved from Guelph to Woodstock because she would need care from her daughter after having surgery on her legs, and to be closer to her family. Despite her daughter’s understanding and support, the living arrangement was undeniably tight. “I slept on the couch, and I felt like I was living out of a suitcase,” she recalls.
Market rents were too high, so she is thrilled with the prospect of living in an affordable unit at Harvey Woods Lofts. “This helps me big time,” says Maxine. “I’m able to afford my rent and some groceries too. Paying rent on time is my number one priority, and having affordable rent will allow me to do other things.”
The new building not only accommodates the needs of individuals, it’s also meeting the diverse needs of the community, according to Neven.
“This is about more than accommodations. It’s a design strategy for quality of life. Whether it’s the design features like the laundry room with windows on three sides, to avoiding a closed feeling that could trigger people suffering from trauma, or the sound insulation between apartments, which helps those who have schizophrenia, our goal is to create a community for people seeking health, wellness, and belonging. When that happens, we all become neighbours,” he says.